The Botanical Building at Balboa Park.
The Botanical Building at Balboa Park.

Are you heading to San Diego for BIO 2014 next week?  If so, do you know how you’re going to spend your free time while you’re here?

With so much to do during the conference itself, that free time just might be limited.  But if you do have a chance to get away, San Diego offers some great places for you to spend it.  And it’s not all about the beach and surfing….

Jennifer Landress, Senior VP and COO of BIOCOM, recently posted an excellent list of local attractions on the BIOtechNOW blog.  BioSurplus is a BIOCOM member and a San Diego-based company; we read the list and decided join in.

Here we’d like to offer some of our own observations on a few of the places that make San Diego unique—and that attract millions of visitors from around the world.   I’m a San Diego native myself, and would love to share some of my favorite places in the city.

Here goes (and in no particular order):

Balboa Park

I grew up visiting Balboa Park and its many museums—in fact it’s probably my favorite place in San Diego.

Today the largest urban cultural park in the country, Balboa Park’s original 1400 acres were set aside by civic leaders in 1868.  The first steps toward developing the land were taken in 1892, when the famous landscape architect Kate Sessions offered to plant 100 trees a year in exchange for space within the park to house her own commercial nursery.

Balboa Park has played host to two world’s fairs:  the 1915-16 Panama California Exposition, and the 1935-36 California Pacific International Exposition.  The buildings from the expositions still stand in the park, and were added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1977.

In addition to its 15 museums, the park is also home to many beautiful gardens, picnic areas, and the renowned Old Globe Theater.  And if you happen to bring your kids along, don’t forget to check out the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center, with its many hands-on exhibits demonstrating the wonders of the natural world.

Click here for information on the science center and IMAX theater.

Grounds are open 24 hours a day; visitor center:  9:30 AM to 4:30 PM; museum hours vary.  Click here for museum information.

1549 El Prado, Balboa Park, San Diego, CA 92101

T:  619-239-0512


San Diego Zoo

Koalas at the San Diego Zoo.  (photo courtesy San Diego Zoo.)
Koalas at the San Diego Zoo. (Photo courtesy San Diego Zoo.)

The San Diego Zoo is home to over 3,700 animals representing more than 650 species, as well as a collection of more than 700,000 exotic plants.

Established in 1916 with animals that had been on display during the Panama California Exposition, the original zoo consisted of a line of cages along Park Boulevard; its first lion cubs, Faith, Hope and Charity, were born in 1917, when a membership cost a whopping five dollars.

Memberships today are a bit more expensive, but still an incredible value.  I have one myself, and visit a few times a month.  One of my favorite attractions is the new Koalafornia Adventure, which opened last year.

The San Diego zoo is open every day from 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM.

For information on zoo tickets please click here.

Click here to visit the San Diego Zoo website.

2920 Zoo Drive, Balboa Park

T:  619-231-1515


Hotel Del Coronado

Hotel del Coronada, circa 1900.  Photo by William Henry Jackson.
Hotel del Coronada, circa 1900. Photo by William Henry Jackson.

When it opened in 1888, the Hotel del Coronado was the largest resort hotel in the world.  It’s now the second-largest wooden structure in the country, and has hosted a who’s who of celebrities, including Charlie Chaplin, Betty Davis, Kirk Douglas and many more; in fact, every U.S. president since Lyndon Johnson has visited the Del.

The hotel has also served as a location for many Hollywood movies—my favorite is Some Like It Hot, the 1959 classic starring Marilyn Monroe, Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon.

The architecture alone is worth a trip over the Coronado Bridge, and there are numerous restaurants and bars where you can eat or have a drink while you’re there.

For more information please click on the Hotel Del’s website here, or call 619-435-6611.

1500 Orange Ave., Coronado, CA 92118


San Diego Harbor Cruise

I’ve taken the San Diego harbor cruise many times over the years, and it’s still one of my favorite things to do here.  It’s the perfect way to get a feel for San Diego and its harbor, from Shelter Island to the Naval Submarine Base to Coronado.

The Coronado Bridge.
The Coronado Bridge.

One of the more interesting facts about the harbor is that in 1835, Richard Henry Dana spent a season preparing animal hides for shipment to Boston on the beach where the sub base is currently located.  He tells the story of his time here, along with the rest of his two-year sea voyage in his famous book Two Years Before The Mast.

Hornblower cruises offers six daily departures from their ticket booth on Harbor Drive near the Star of India (very close to the San Diego Convention Center).  Sunset happy-hour cruises are also available on Fridays and Saturdays.

970 N. Harbor Drive, San Diego, CA 92101

T:  1-888-467-6256

Click here for more information on Hornblower’s website.


UCSD – Our Biotech Hub.  Scripps Aquarium, Salk Institute And More

The UCSD Geisel Library.
The UCSD Geisel Library.

La Jolla is the cradle of the biotech hub here in San Diego, with the University of California, San Diego at its center.  The university was established in 1960 and, along with the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, which was founded in 1903, has been a catalyst for research, innovation and the creation of new biotech companies.

There are all kinds of interesting places to visit and things to do on and around the campus.  If you’re an architecture fan, you won’t want to miss the Salk Institute; the UCSD Geisel library—named for Theodore Geisel, AKA Dr. Seuss—is also instantly recognizable.

UCSD’s Birch Aquarium at the Scripps Institute is a must-see if you’re in the area, and La Jolla Shores beach next door is one of the best in the city.


Birch Aquarium

2300 Expedition Way, La Jolla, CA 92037

Open 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM daily

T:  858-534-3474


Salk Institute For Biological Studies

10010 N. Torrey Pines Rd., La Jolla, CA 92037

T:  858-453-4100


UCSD Geisel Library

9500 Gilman Dr., San Diego, CA 92093

T:  858-534-3336